Facebook – the supersized social network! You are most probably on it – or if not, there’s a good chance you had an account at one point. Looking at it objectively, how would you even do any networking on Facebook? Is Facebook even good for networking? Most people are there to keep in touch with friends and family. Very few are trying to build their networks.
I will explore the potential for networking on Facebook, especially for business, while throwing in liberal amounts of advice on ways to use Facebook for online marketing at the same time. A lot of it overlaps, after all.
Okay, let’s get started …
What Are You Trying to Do?
Before you start, you need to understand one thing: building relationships on Facebook is not what you are trying to do.
The truth is that Facebook is not a great relationship-building tool. It’s more of a “relationship maintenance” tool. What you are ideally trying to do, however, is to identify people that you can network with outside Facebook. And seeing that most of the world’s adult population is on Facebook (for now), it might be worth seeing if you can harvest part of your network on it.
Is Your Current Facebook Presence “Meh”?
Many small business owners do have some sort of Facebook presence for their business because they feel that they should be there. Heck, everyone else is! However, like anything, it only becomes useful IF it is regularly updated and used in a way that maximizes its potential.
So if you are going to use Facebook for networking, create a plan and process to update your content regularly and engage with visitors.
Is Your Audience on Facebook?
Before you start throwing time and effort into building up an awesome Facebook presence, you need to ask yourself if it will be worth it? Does your business need to be on Facebook? Do the people you want to engage with use Facebook as a primary online social platform? Would that effort be better spent on LinkedIn or Pinterest or even Tribemine?
Most consumers use Facebook a lot, although as a distraction for the most part. Business people looking to network don’t use it so much. So, for B2C businesses, it’s good; for B2B businesses not really. In the case of the latter, LinkedIn would be a better bet, although the folks at Facebook state that they want to offer more tools for business.
Take a look at this site for loads of interesting stats on Facebook usage.
So now, let’s assume that you’ve identified that Facebook might be a good fit for your business and the chances of building a large audience are pretty good. Let’s take a look at 8 steps (plus 1 bonus one) on how to use Facenook for networking.
Step 1 Ask Your Existing Friends on Facebook
You already have a network of sorts on Facebook – it’s your “Friends” list. Why not put out feelers by asking them if they know of anyone in a particular industry or field that might want to network with you. If they do, ask them to pass on your details, or better yet, get theirs.
Step 2 Set Up a “Business” Account
If you have a personal Facebook account (the one where you post funny memes and comment on your friends’ baby pictures), set up a second account for yourself where you focus your business activity.
Set up your vanity URL
Make sure you change your default gobble-dee-gook account identification string with one that contains your personal or business name. So instead of the page URL being something like facebook.com/mh564d4F43, you can set it to facebook.com/firstname.lastname or facebook.com/businessname.
To do this, click on the little triangle on the far right of the header. Select “Settings” from the menu and then click on “Username” on the page that comes up. You can change your username that will alter the name in the web address bar as well. Remember to save the changes. This may change, however, as Facebook is always moving this around.
Use a professional-looking photo
As with your profile on any business-related social media platform, the photo you use should be professional. In other words, it should communicate the image of yourself that you are trying to get across to your potential connections, clients or partners.
Using a photo of you playing with elephants in Thailand on your vacation there last year may not be the best idea if you are an accountant, but it will work well if you are a tour operator or travel agent. Think about what people will expect from someone in your field or industry.
Use an Interesting Banner
The banner (the image across the top of the page) can be used to great effect to create a positive impression of you and your business. However, the banner needs to be high quality and sized correctly.
If you are not any good at creating artwork for websites, visit a site like fiverrr.com to get a good one don for you that will cost around $20 to $50 – or cheaper if you are lucky.
You can also try a site like canva.com that makes it really easy to create images for the web by yourself, even if you don’t have an artistic bone in your body.
Step 3 Set Up a Business Page
You can choose to use only your personal page if you are the brand but if you have a business that is an independent entity, then you should really create a business page.
It’s as easy as clicking on the “Create Page” at the bottom of the column to the left of the feed. The click the “Business or Brand” button and follow the instructions.
Use the same branding as your “business” profile
Be sure to use your banner in the header of the page (use the one from your personal page or have a new one designed). You can use your logo as the small “picture” to the left of the banner. Whatever you choose to do, be sure that there is a common color scheme and message to your personal and company pages. It has to look like they are related.
Step 4 Engage, Don’t Sell
Facebook is intended to boost engagement. Your news feed is not a place to post links to your blog and/or website. You should post content on Facebook that engages with your audience.
Facebook penalizes posts that contain links intended to lead users away from Facebook by restricting how often they are displayed on other people’s feeds. On the other hand, posts that encourage users to stay on the page and interact are rewarded. So how can you do that?
Ask Questions and Get Opinions
Ask questions related to what you do. Test out various question formats and use the ones that work. You can also ask for people’s opinions.
Run a survey
It’s easy to run a survey on Facebook – although you can only run built-in surveys in Groups only. There are survey apps and plugins (surveymonkey.com is one) that can also be used. Use google to find a host of easily embeddable survey providers.
Surveys are great because you can get valuable engagement and feedback in one fell swoop.
Have a competition
Competitions are a great way to get engagement. Ask visitors to answer a simple question in the comments below the post and then draw from the correct ones. It works best if the prize is something worthwhile – it doesn’t have to be an iPad but giving away a discount on a service few people need will probably not get many responses.
Whatever you do, remember to give generously to your audience. Give – give advice, give help, give praise. If your business page is a place where people can get genuine, helpful answers to their questions and concerns, they will spend more time there and tell their friends about it.
Step 5 Use Groups
Starting a Group
Starting a group is a great way to get engagement BUT make of two things;
- A similar group with high membership doesn’t already exist. If there already is a direct competitor, consider joining that group instead of starting your own.
- You have the time and inclination to run the groups. If you are not sure, skip it as groups can be time-consuming to promote and administer.
There are many resources online about how to start and run a Facebook group.
Joining a Group
If you don’t want to spend the time running a group, find one or two groups that interest you and join up IF
- They have more than a few hundred members,
- They are still active, which you can tell from the dates of the most recent posts and replies,
- And the content looks to be on-topic. Many groups that are not well administered end up becoming spam boards.
From a networking standpoint, groups are a good place to start an interaction and to identify people you may be able to build a relationship with. If you come across someone who seems like a good match, search for them online and see if you can connect on LinkedIn. From there, you can start interacting with them outside of Facebook.
Step 6 Set Up Events
If you host or organize events (meetups, launches and the like), use the Facebook Events section to set up a way for your followers to sign up for your events. It’s easy and you can use events as a way engage with the audience, both before and afterward.
If the event is not too big, create a list of the people who said they would be attending in the Facebook page and make a point of meeting up with them and introducing yourself in person at the event. Decide if any are worth building a relationship with and, if so, see if you can arrange further interactions either online or face-to-face.
Step 7 Entice People to Like your Page(s)
Likes are the lifeblood of your Facebook pages and so you need to try to increase the number of likes you get. The more likes you get, the more Facebook will prioritize your content in the feeds of your supporters. The more they like, the more they see.
This can be done in several ways.
- With engagement on Facebook that makes users want to come back to your page,
- With invitations to Friends on Facebook to “Like” your page, and
- With buttons on your website and other social media accounts that invite people to “like and share”.
Step 8 Try to Stand Out
This is a point that may be beyond the abilities of many people, but if you are the imaginative sort (or you know one), it’s worth trying to come up with ideas on how to get people to talk about your page(s). You need to try to get people to come back to your page.
Some people have created really interesting banners and profile images that tell a story or are thought-provoking and interesting. These pages have caught the attention of many and some have even gone viral, exposing the creators of the pages to entirely new markets.
If you don’t want to be creative, you can do simple things like posting themed content of specific days of the week – “Monday Madness” or “Finally Friday”.
Most people appreciate the effort and enjoy being entertained, so if you have an idea, why not try it out? If it doesn’t work, you can always revert to more staid and unremarkable content.
BONUS STEP Advertise
If all else fails, and you want to increase your audience, you can advertise on Facebook (and elsewhere). The cost need not be all that high and it can be effective. However, it’s a good idea to do the math on your ROI before embarking on it to make sure it’s worth your while.
Facebook is not the ideal platform for networking. It has inherent drawbacks. However, if your audience in on Facebook, then you have to set up shop there. However, unlike LinkedIn and Tribemine, you can’t just start building your network. You have to attract people and then slowly and gently start engaging with them so that you can harvest their details and connect with them on a more suitable platform.
Many people have done well using Facebook to build up their networks. Is it something you should look into?